Chronic Diseases, Food and Nutrition
Nutrition plays a vital role in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and inflammatory disorders. Many chronic illnesses are caused by poor nutritional habits while others are made worse by unhealthy eating. What you eat can help stave off these chronic diseases and prevent you from suffering from their effects.
As the number one preventable disease and one of the leading causes of death in the US, cardiovascular disease is also our top contender for diseases that can be treated and prevented by nutritional healing. Your diet and activity level are what contribute most to heart disease development and progression. Eating food high in saturated fats and cholesterol raises your risk for stroke and contributes to atherosclerosis. (Source)
If you are one of the 70 million people in the US who have some form of heart disease, you need to manage your risk factors and change your diet in order to reverse this course. (Source)
The leading factors that contribute to heart disease, besides family history, include inflammation, elevated cholesterol, insulin resistance, and oxidative damage. All of these can be treated and even cured through proper nutrition.
Eating foods high in fiber and low in fat, cholesterol, refined sugar, and salt will help you treat your heart disease. Below, we describe a heart-healthy diet that keeps arteries flowing freely and keeps heart muscles healthy.
Type 2 Diabetes
When your body is not able to produce enough insulin to remove sugar from your blood, or when your cells are not using insulin efficiently, you are left with too much sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream. Chronically elevated blood glucose levels result in Type 2 diabetes. The leading causes of Type 2 diabetes include being overweight or obese, eating a diet high in unhealthy nutrients, and not getting enough exercise. (Source)
Type 2 diabetes diagnoses have risen sharply over the last few decades as Americans are heavier than ever and eating more processed foods, which often have added sugars. The change in our diets has significantly affected our health in many ways. But you can treat and even cure Type 2 diabetes in nearly all cases by changing what you eat.
Like diabetes, the prevalence of autoimmune disorders is also rising. These diseases can be hard to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, as symptoms often mimic other diseases or come and go seemingly without pattern.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, nearly 700 million people have some sort of autoimmune disorder, which is a disease that occurs when your own immune system starts fighting against otherwise healthy tissue. Your body produces antibodies that are not needed, and it attacks healthy cells. (Source)
Common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Grave’s disease, psoriasis, and scleroderma.
Doctors are not sure what causes most autoimmune disorders, but nutrition plays a key role in many. Because your immune system is so essential to your overall health and wellness, taking care of it and reducing potential causes of autoimmune diseases is vital for your long-term well-being. (Source)
While genetics play a role in the development of these diseases, it is actually diet and other lifestyle choices that activate or express these genes, giving rise to the disease in your body. Changing what you eat can not only prevent many of these diseases, even if you have a family history, but your diet can also lower or stop many symptoms of these disorders. (Source)
Food and Nutrition for Health and Wellness
The food you eat turns into the fuel your body uses to take care of you. If you eat healthy, nutritious food, your body will be able to do what it needs to do. If you eat unhealthy food lacking in the right nutrition, you will wind up sick and malfunctioning. It is time to reeducate ourselves about what healthy food is and why it is so important for our bodies.
Nutrition for Heart Health
Doctors have understood the relationship between nutrition and heart diseases for nearly 100 years.
Preventing heart disease is possible by changing your diet to include the proper nutrients and energy sources to keep your cardiovascular system working properly.
The following are the best foods to help promote a healthy heart.
- A large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (Source)
- Whole grains rich in B-vitamins
- Nuts and seeds, in moderation
- Healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids
When eating for heart health, you should also exclude or severely limit:
- Animal Fats
- Fried foods and all partially-hydrogenated oils
- Refined grains
- Sugary foods of any kind
- Excessive alcohol
Food and Nutrition for Brain Health
Many people do not understand that your brain needs specific nutrients, just like the rest of the cells in your body.
Eating for brain health and can protect you from dementia and other cognitive aging disorders. (Source)
Eating a diet that has brain-healthy foods is not only good for your memory, attention, and focus, but it can help with issues of depression and anxiety, as well.
For proper brain function, your body needs choline, which it uses to produce neurotransmitters that allow your brain to function properly. Choline is found in soybeans, peanuts, lentils, flax seeds, and many fruits and vegetables.
Your brain also needs omega-3 fatty acids. Most of your brain is made up of fat tissue, and the right amount of healthy fats, such as omega-3s, will give your brain the energy it needs to function. Reliable sources of these fats include oily fish native to cold waters, walnuts, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds.
You should also ensure you are getting enough Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and zinc to take care of your brain.
When thinking about brain health, there are some foods you should avoid completely. These include:
- Unhealthy fats, including trans-fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and other unhealthy lipids. They are common in fried foods, processed baked goods, and some kinds of margarine.
- Refined sugars and grains, which create excess glucose in your bloodstream that affects your brain chemistry
- Oils like sunflower seed and cottonseed, which raise inflammation levels in the body and influence cognitive function
Nutrition for Blood Sugar Stability
Those who have Type 2 diabetes can significantly improve their health by changing their diets to manage their blood sugar better. When you supply your body with the proper nutrition, it will produce and use insulin more efficiently, blood glucose levels will fall, and you will have better health overall. (Source)
Using nutritional healing, you can prevent Type 2 diabetes if you are at risk, as well.
- Plant-based proteins are preferred to animal-based ones.
- Good sources of animal protein, though, include eggs, poultry, and seafood.
- Whole grains are a must for diabetics, as they supply a steadier, slower release of glucose into your system, which eliminates spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Fresh or frozen fruit is an excellent source of sweetness that won’t cause significant fluctuations in your blood sugar.
- Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables to get the minerals and vitamins you need without the excess carbohydrates.
To prevent diabetes, you should avoid:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices
- Refined grains
- Baked goods
- Foods with added sugars
- Dried fruit
- Fried foods, especially potatoes
Food and Nutrition for Bone Health
Your bones also need proper nutrition to stay healthy and strong. If you want to prevent osteoporosis as you age, you should focus on eating foods that increase bone density throughout your life.
Calcium is perhaps the most important nutrient for bone health, as it provides the source of bone strength. In addition to dairy products, you can get calcium from fish, dark green vegetables, tofu, and fortified cereals and drinks.
Your body also needs plenty of Vitamin D to absorb the calcium in your food. Your best source of Vitamin D is the sun. Other sources include fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
Magnesium also helps your body use calcium to promote bone health. Make sure you eat plenty of whole grains, dark greens, nuts, and seeds to get the magnesium you need.
Leafy, green vegetables are also an excellent source of Vitamin K, which your body needs to maintain bone strength and density, as well.
- Excessive alcohol
- Excessive sodium
- Animal proteins except in small amounts
Food and Nutrition To Reduce Inflammation
Many autoimmune disorders include symptoms related to elevated levels of inflammation in the body. In addition, several other diseases common today are directly caused by or result in an increased inflammatory response.
Inflammation is linked to diseases like dementia, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, to name a few.
To lower inflammation, you can eat more omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are actually responsible for fighting inflammatory response in the body.
You should also cut gluten, dairy, and processed foods from your diet to lower inflammation.
Putting it All Together
It does not have to be complicated to use nutrition to maintain good health. Here are the building blocks of a healthy diet, no matter your health goals.
- Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables several times per day.
- Drink plenty of water each day.
- Eat a wide variety of whole grains daily.
- Engage in physical exercise at least 30 minutes each day.
- Eat lesser amounts of high-quality, lean protein, preferably from plant sources daily.
- Spend at least 10 minutes in direct sunlight each day.
- Eat small amounts of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids regularly.
Following these simple guidelines provides you with the high-quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat you need as well as the mineral and vitamins necessary for optimal health. A good rule to remember- if it is not on this list, abstain or enjoy in very small quantities on special occasions.
Variety is the key to nutritional healing
Those who eat a wide variety of foods are more likely to live longer and be healthier.
When you eat a wide range of foods, you are able to get all the micronutrients your cells need. When choosing vegetables and fruits, aim to “eat the rainbow” each week, and vary your sources of protein regularly, as well.
Eating too much of a good thing will still lead to weight gain, so portion control is still important, even with an extremely healthy diet. The good news is that fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients but low in calories, which means you can eat a lot more of these without gaining weight. Whole grains are more filling than processed versions, so you do not need larger portions to feel satisfied, either.
You may opt to eat smaller, more frequent meals to feel less hungry and keep a steady blood sugar level. Eating five to seven times a day often works better for some people while also reducing the need “cram” all your nutritional needs into just a few meals.
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